At the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, the USA men’s track and field team won more gold medals and set more records than any other team in history.
The training site on Echo Summit is credited with giving team USA an edge over the competition, and on Friday morning 11 of the former Olympians returned to the summit to dedicate the site as a California Historical Landmark.
At the Mexico City Olympic games, the men’s track team won 20 medals including 12 Gold. Twenty members of the team have been inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame.
The dedication event allowed the former Olympians to reconnect and sign autographs for fans.
“Every year or two there’s a function and I run with some of the guys, but there’s guys here I haven’t seen since the Olympic games. Probably half these guys I haven’t seen in 46 years. We were like a family,” said Geoff Vanderstock just as former teammate Norm Tate asked him to sign a poster.
South Lake Tahoe’s director of recreation at the time leading up to the Olympics recommended the site of Echo Summit because it was 14 feet higher in elevation than the track in Mexico City. The Forest Service approved the building of the track in the middle of the forest where hundreds of pine trees remained standing on the infield.
The training time was known as “100 days in Tahoe” and brought the athletes together as friends and competitors. Four world records were broken on the track including John Carlos’ 19.7 second 200-meters, Lee Evans’ 44 second 400-meters, Vanderstock’s 48.8 seconds in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles and Bob Seagren who jumped 17 feet 9 inches in the pole vault.
“I was surprised I set a world record here,” said Vanderstock, who was confident the elevation training helped his running. “And I haven’t been back here in 46 years now and I’m just kind of flabbergasted and I haven’t signed an autograph in 46 years.”
Immediately following the Olympic Trials, the track was disassembled and moved down to South Tahoe Intermediate School, now South Tahoe Middle School. The original track stayed in tact until 2007.
California has 1,053 historical landmarks and Echo Summit is one of just five associated with sports. The dedication honors the athletic accomplishments that occurred at the track as well as the civil rights advancements happening at the same time.